Dancing is a great way to meet new people, all of whom are eager to see new faces on the dance floor. Ballroom dancing, with its different forms in particular, offers an extremely friendly environment, where everyone is encouraged to join in the dancing. Seeing others overcome shyness and awkwardness by dancing is a great ice-breaker, and creates a much more at-ease feeling among the group. The one on one dances such as the Waltz or the Latin styles are known for creating and strengthening bonds between the participating partners. This is because when dancing, each person has to be aware of the other’s movements, abilities, and intentions, which encourages a kind of silent and intuitive communication.
As for Parkinson’s disease patients, social and physical worlds have a tendency to shrink as the condition progresses, to the point where social isolation becomes a burden. The first benefit of dancing, then, is that it gets you out of the house and into the social sphere. To take the first step in a room filled with people, all of whom came to dance, be together and have fun, is already a great achievement. Indeed, a very important aspect of life with Parkinson’s which dance improves is lack of confidence. Parkinson’s patients often report feeling socially awkward because they feel their symptoms draw attention and they become extremely self-conscious about appearing in public. Not only does dancing provide a supporting environment in which to overcome physical difficulties and limitations while having fun, it also helps a person regain his or her self-confidence. Dancing works on posture, gait, balance, elegance, and much more. All of these and the improvement from class to class help dancers regain the sense of familiarity and confidence in their body, and consequently to feel more at ease in public. And as for feeling awkward among the dancing group itself: the sweeping music and the need to concentrate on the dance moves simply do not leave any room for one to be self-conscious, but still just enough to enjoy the moment.
Furthermore, the physical contact that is made while dancing is also significant, particularly for Parkinson’s patients. The sense of alienation and lack of control over one’s body is common to many people, but is extreme in those who live with the degenerative condition. Such people might become increasingly uncomfortable with their body and consequently withdraw emotionally from others. However, the physical touch that is experienced when dancing helps one overcome inhibitions, relax, and potentially even connect the two dancing partners on an emotional level. Moreover, turning physical exercise into such an enjoyable and sociable experience helps reduce stress and tension, which can often exacerbate Parkinson’s symptoms. Once the physical activity turns into a social one, it soon puts a smile on the participant’s face, and helps make life with Parkinson’s just a little bit easier.